Veld fire death toll rises

   Veld fire death toll rises

9 September 2009

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South Africa — A 75-year-old woman died in a veld fire in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Wednesday.

Inspector Mbongeni Mdlalose said it was believed the “gogo” (grandmother) was returning from a neighbour’s function on Saturday when she got caught in the flames.

This brings the total number of veld fire deaths to 13.

Health authorities and police in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday confirmed 12 deaths since the runaway fires began last week.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said most of those who died were from villages in Lusikisiki and Libode.

A mass funeral for the five Libode women took place in the Bhukwini village on Wednesday and the costs were to be paid by the Nyandeni municipality.

The SABC reported that thousands of mourners attended the service and paid their last respects.

Speaking at the funeral, Nyandeni municipal mayor Thoko Sokhanyile appealed to the community to refrain from starting fires. She also called on residents to put out fires when they start.

The mayor promised that the municipality would rebuild houses for those left displaced but urged the community to accommodate them in the meantime.

The burial of the other victims had not yet been decided.

Kupelo said after an assessment, some areas might be declared disaster zones as the damage was “too” extensive.

On Wednesday however, authorities were unable to put a figure to the damage.

Some of the worst devastation was seen in the Ngqeleni area, roughly 40km outside Mthatha.

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